What You Say and Don’t Say When You Write A Letter of Condolence
by Gene Griessman, Ph.D.
The following statements should never be used when you write a note or letter
of condolence. Ditto for what you say when you have a conversation in person with someone who has lost a loved one. These “do not says” are based on a list compiled by Lillian Hunt Chaney and Jeanette St. Clair Martin in “The Essential Guide to Business Etiquette.”
“His/Her passing was really a blessing. She suffered so much.”
Bereaved persons often say this themselves, but you should not. That is their right, not yours. Their sense of loss may be so great that they will find it impossible to make such an assessment–regardless of how much suffering the person who died was enduring.
“Time heals all wounds.”
This is a really stupid thing to say. Don’t even think about using this hackneyed cliche. In a general sense, it may be true, but some individuals experience painful episodes of grief for many years and never completely get over the loss.
“I know just how you feel, my own sister died two years ago.”
Chaney and St. Clair Martin put it this way. “People in mourning are not interested in your making comparisons of your loss to theirs.” Whatyousay agrees completely.
“I was horrified when I heard how tragically he died in the automobile accident.”
The authors explain: “When the death is sudden or tragic, avoid saying how shocked or horrified you were.”
On a positive note, Chaney and St. Clair Martin advise: “In writing a letter of sympathy, acknowledge the terrible loss the person is experiencing, and offer to help in any way… You might say something like, ‘Charles helped me so much when I was first hired.’ Or ‘He was kind and had a great sense of humor in addition to being admired for his competence.’”
Source: “The Essential Guide to Business Etiquette” by Lillian Hunt Chaney and Jeanette St. Clair Martin, Page 79
–Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and consultant. His video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, contact us at 404-256-5927 or [email protected]
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